LVT(4) Buffalo in Zoutelande, Netherlands, 2 November 1944

Jakko

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My next modelling project is going to be closest to home I’ve ever built :smiling3: But first, some background.

Walcheren is a former island in the southwest of the Netherlands, strategically located on the northern side of the mouth of the Western Scheldt, along which all ships bound for Antwerp have to sail. In 1944, that city had — if I recall correctly — the third-largest port in Europe (after Rotterdam and Hamburg) and was vital to the Allied war effort because by late ’44, all supplies for the Allied armies were still being brought in through Normandy. Despite Antwerp having been taken with its port facilities still usable in September 1944, the Allies got distracted by Operation Market Garden that was to capture the major river bridges in the Netherlands, so as to allow a left hook to knock Germany out of the war in one blow. As is probably well-known, that failed dramatically and Montgomery belatedly turned his attention to securing the approaches to Antwerp — which he really should have done as soon as the port was in British hands. The Germans had used the time in between to improve their already formidable defences of the area, leading to some of the heaviest fighting of the war on the European front through October 1944 along the southern bank in the so-called “Breskens Pocket”.

In October 1944, the RAF repeatedly bombed sea defences in four locations on Walcheren, flooding the low-lying interior to hamper the German defenders. On 1 November 1944, Allied forces landed at Vlissingen and Westkapelle in Operations Infatuate I and II, respectively; by the evening of that day, British forces from No. 48 (Royal Marine) Commando had made their way southeast along the dunes from Westkapelle towards Zoutelande.¹

German defenses on western Walcheren 1944.jpeg

The German map above shows the German defensive sectors on the western end of Walcheren (though Stützpunkt (Stp.) Undine had been literally wiped off the face of the earth by the bombardment of 3 October). By nightfall of the 1st of November, “Y” Troop, 48 (RM) Cdo., with support from naval gunfire and fighter-bombers had cleared the coast down to the southern end of the 15 cm coastal artillery battery at Snabbeldorp (that’s the arrow symbol with “15” on the map; the hamlet’s name is misspelled there, BTW); the following morning, “A” Troop continued the advance and by midday had cleared the rest of Stp. Meistersinger down to the southeastern side of the village of Zoutelande. At this point, No. 47 (RM) Commando took over the advance, allowing No. 48 some rest and resupply. From even before the landings the previous morning until the time “A” Troop had actually captured it, the village had been under continue naval and aerial bombardment, leading many civilians to seek shelter in cellars and in German bunkers. The naval gunfire included 15-inch shells from HMS Erebus, one salvo of which arrived just at the moment “A” Troop’s OC, Capt. Dan Flunder, was telling a group of villagers in a bunker that they were safe now … One of the shells knocked a large hole in the roof of the church, but apparently didn’t detonate because that seems to have been the only damage it took (an uncle of mine told me recently that he had seen this shell hit from where he was in the dunes at the time).

By 14:00 hours, LVT Buffalos of 5th Assault Squadron Royal Engineers, 26th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers, carrying supplies had reached the village:

LVT(4) Langstraat Zoutelande 1.jpeg

A little bit of detective work from old photographs recently lead me to work out where exactly where this photo was taken. Here’s an aerial photo from the late 1940s on which I’ve marked the location:

Zoutelande oblique aerial photo late 1940s.jpg

And this is what the same spot looks like today (literally — I took this picture early this afternoon):

Langstraat Today.jpeg

The LVT stood in the middle of the street, pretty much right next to where the car is parked, in front of the now white building (currently a shop, then a house). The other building next to that in the 1944 photograph has been demolished, probably in the 1950s to widen the side street, when a lot of new streets and houses were built in the area beyond the photo.

Then there’s also this photo:

LVT(4) Langstraat Zoutelande 2.jpeg

It’s (almost guaranteed to be) the same vehicle, as it shows most of the same people who were posing in front of it in the other one, but now they’re on the front deck. The man in the cap and leather coat standing with his hand on the mudguard is Jan de Visser, the local grocer — his shop was behind the photographer, and is now a Spar store (I took the “now” picture from the steps in front of it). The woman sitting on the front deck in the dark coat is his wife Jane (pronounced /jɔnə/, not /dʒeɪn/ as in English), and all the girls are their daughters.

To build a model of this vehicle, I’ve got this collected:

IMG_1800.JPG

An AFV Club LVT(4), a Scale Line Polsten gun on the type of mounting used on Buffalos, and an Eduard etching for the Italeri LVT(4) that I bought for that kit but never used; not sure if I will now, but some parts may come in handy.

As for references:

fullsizeoutput_190c.jpeg
fullsizeoutput_190d.jpeg

There are very good articles by Bruce Crosby about the LVT-series and corrections needed to the Italeri kit in a couple of issues of Military Modelling from about 15 years ago, and some general books on amtracs don’t go amiss, even if American sources tend to be very brief about LVT usage in Europe. The two books in the lower photo are Walcheren bevrijd, november 1944 (“Walcheren Liberated, November 1944”) by Hans Houterman (Middelburg: J. N. Houterman, 1944; ISBN 90-73921-03-1) and Zoutelande in de Tweede Wereldoorlog — Een dorp aan de Atlantikwall (“Zoutelande in the Second World War — A village on the Atlantikwall”) by Hans Sakkers and Hans Houterman (Middelburg: Stichting Bunkerbehoud, 2002; ISBN 90-9015937-1). The back-and-white photos and the map I posted above were scanned from these.


¹ For our Dutch and Flemish readers: yes, the place that is now world-famous because of that bloody song by that overrated band.
 
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Steve Jones

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What an intro Jakko!! Really enjoyed reading your piece of history. I will be front and centre seeing how this build unfolds. Good luck:thumb2::thumb2:
 

Jon Heptonstall

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Looking forwards to this.
Be nice to have an M29 too.
I'm sure you know that Resicast do a nice and expensive conversion set including the Polsten.
Jon.
 

Jakko

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Be nice to have an M29 too.
I have an LZ Models M29C Weasel in the stash, which will definitely also be built as one that drove around these parts.

I'm sure you know that Resicast do a nice and expensive conversion set including the Polsten.
No, I didn’t know that, but having just checked Resicast’s web site, it doesn’t look like their set includes anything I actually need — I already have the gun, and the machine gun shields are the wrong type for the vehicle in the photos.
 

Jakko

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I’ve begun construction now, and much of it’s straightforward, but I thought I’d share some pics of the very nicely detailed cab interior:

E2ECBA46-4020-48A7-82BA-F600A02959EB.jpeg

Much of this will be barely visible through the open hatches, I suppose, but it’s there if you want it. The transmission is still loose here, to help painting later on, and for that same reason the seats and air filters are separate too.

I attached the rear wall to the cab, instead of adding it only when the rest of the cab is put into the hull as the instructions recommend. Putting a couple of pieces of 1 mm plastic card between the floor and rear wall helps keep it upright like it’s supposed to, to avoid accidents in handling the parts:

4A0A8ECD-7772-4601-8D3D-B157A51B27DF.jpeg
 

Jim R

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Hi Jakko
What an interesting intro. This is a really personal build for you and that makes it special. I shall follow along with interest. Looks as if the AFV kit is nice and you're off to a good start.
jim
 

Jon Heptonstall

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Looking good.What's the difference between the AFV Club early and late LVT-4 models?
Jon.
 

Jakko

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What an interesting intro. This is a really personal build for you and that makes it special.
Personal in the sense that getting to the location in the photos is about a five-minute walk, certainly :smiling3:

Looks as if the AFV kit is nice
It’s a typical AFV Club kit: well-detailed, very good fit, but in need of a few more locating pins and other fool-proof features of getting things to first exactly where they should :smiling3: I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it to anyone with an interest in LVTs (and preferably a couple of armour models under their belt) — it’s far better than the Italeri kit, that’s for sure.

What's the difference between the AFV Club early and late LVT-4 models?
I don’t really know, this is the only AFV Club LVT I have. However, I do know that it’s more a mid-type than an early model, since the right-hand hatch on the cab is further back than that on the left, while on early vehicles they’re equally far forward (as you can see in the first photo). I suppose the later model has the bow machine gun, and probably other details that are different on this one.
 
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Jakko

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Small update: the interior is now primed:

7D3F5BA8-0605-4628-98B4-3731DAA10F74.jpeg

The front parts of the inner side walls were also primed, but I didn’t take a picture of them. The bar thing is a crossbar onto which the instrument panel goes, but that’s a clear part with a printed set of dials to go behind it. I’m not sure I’ll fit any of all that, though, as I doubt they can be seen at all when the cab is closed up — but I’ll see about that later.

They all got a coat of Vallejo Surface Primer, which seems to cover well, but I also get the impression it leeched a bit of colour from the plastic because it’s not as brilliantly white as some whitenprimers I’ve used. But it covers well enough and dries fast, so I’m not complaining. Now I need to paint the floor olive drab and various details in some other colours, then add some shading, dirt, grime, etc. and put it all together.

I also built the roadwheels on their suspension arms, twenty of them in all:

540AE7D5-24D4-41BC-B946-381F4429798D.jpeg

These are only four parts each: wheel, two arms and mud scraper. That last part is the difficult one, as it’s very thin and attached to the sprue at three points. A good, sharp blade was needed to get them off cleanly, and you need to look carefully at the instructions and the parts to see how they should fit. If you screw up, there are two spares (because there are 22 complete roadwheel assemblies on the sprues) but luckily I didn’t need any.
 

scottie3158

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Jakko,
A great start and a very interesting intro. I will pull up a chair.
 

Mini Me

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Great background material Jakko, Seems things have not changed much since the war ended
and now. Cheers, Rick H.
 

Jakko

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Seems things have not changed much since the war ended
and now.
Weeeeell … not that particular spot, no — however, if you compare the present-day village to the 1940s aerial photo above, you can see it’s quite a bit bigger now. Also, the *&%^ing building you can see being put up in the background is part of a whole wave of new developments in the last couple of years that has seen several notable buildings torn down to be replaced by bland new apartment complexes :sad:
 

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I did notice the eye sore under construction. Too bad. What prompted my comment was the original building and the street itself. Compared to the original photo hardly any difference.
Cheers,Rick H.
 

Jakko

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I did notice the eye sore under construction. Too bad.
The only good thing about it is that when they’re not working on that building, the tower crane makes a really good wind direction indicator :smiling3: (All I need to do as I type this, is look out the window and I can see the crane. When they’re done for the day, it’s allowed to turn freely, so the boom always ends up pointing away from the wind.)

What prompted my comment was the original building and the street itself. Compared to the original photo hardly any difference.
That’s true, the buildings and the road surface have been modernised a bit, but those ones there are essentially the same as they were 75 years ago.
 

Richard48

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Hi Jakko.
A great subject matter.I believe Tiger models has some stuff for this kit.Im sure i read that british Lvs had different top hatch configurations and side applique armour.
Great stuff.
Rich.
 

Jakko

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The cab hatches on all British LVT(4)s I remember seeing were all at the front of the roof, not staggered as here, so that will require a bit of remedial surgery. The kit provides the late style of side armour, panels that cover the whole of the pontoons, but many (most?) LVTs on Walcheren appear to have used the earlier style of smaller plates at front and rear. The photos above don’t show which type this one had, but I’ll add the smaller ones to this model — I’ve already cut the plates but not put them on yet. The build is mainly being held up by the need to wait for paint to dry :smiling3:
 

Mickc1440

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Great introduction to your build, I'm in with the rest to follow this one.
 

Jakko

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0FA768B0-9F00-4976-BBE2-2C30585B8191.jpeg

This photo shows the armour plates, though they’re not yet glued on, and the etched screens in the front sponsons.

The armour plate is 0.25 mm plastic sheet, cut based on the drawings in one of Bruce Crosby’s MilMod articles and the dimensions of the AFV Club pontoons. After I glue them on, they’ll still need clips to hold them.

I’ve pictured the screen mainly to show the way I attached them: they sit in a recess in the plastic part, from the inside (they’re on the underside of the sponsons), and rather than glue them in place with superglue, I cut two lengths of plastic strip that I glued above the screens using normal plastic cement, trapping the screen between them and the kit part. Note that the recess in the plastic part is slightly shorter than the screen, so scraping out the front and back a little is necessary to make the screens sit nice and flat.

Also, I’m keeping the sponsons separate until after I’ve assembled the hull sides and bottom and the engine compartment inside. This mainly because I think it will be harder to get them square if you put them on like AFV Club suggests, namely, glue the sponsons to the side walls first and only then put the hull parts together.
 

Jakko

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The corrected cab roof:

D9A682B7-0640-4196-90A9-28B5182F3C95.jpeg

It now has both hatches equally far forward instead of the right one further back than the left. This was easy enough to do with a saw and a mitre box: I first cut front to back on both sides of the hatch, taking care to do so between the bolt heads along the rear edge of the top plate. Next, I cut from side to side just in front of the ridge around the hatch, leaving about half a millimetre of roof, and finally, I made a third cut behind the hatch.

Note that I sawed this with the plate lying flat in the mitre box — I didn’t saw through from front to back, but from top to bottom. It would be rather too easy to get the angles really wrong if you saw from end to end :smiling3:

Then it was just a matter of gluing some plastic card to the inside of the roof and putting the pieces I cut out onto them:

132A9578-6369-4CD3-89D6-2EBAD7A76851.jpeg

All that remains here is to wait for the glue to dry, apply some filler, and sand that down tomorrow.

The cab interior is now also mostly complete:

D9198CE5-E141-4C1D-8C1A-D29B96AF7626.jpeg

Most of this will be out of sight, unfortunately. There should also be a crossbar with instrument panel above the transmission, but when I put that in and set the cab roof in place, it’s almost invisible so chances are that I’ll leave it off entirely.
 
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